Legislation to protect veterans exposed to burn pits moves forward

The Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Act of 2019—S.2950—is a bill based on an original DAV concept that would help veterans cut through red tape in the Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims process by conceding exposure to burn pits for certain locations. After passing the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (SVAC) legislative markup hearing on Aug. 5, it is now one step closer to becoming law before the end of the year.

This time frame is critical, as it marks the end of the 116th Congress, meaning Congress has a limited window on getting bills on the Senate calendar and passed before having to start over with the 117th Congress in the new year.

“We’ve made tremendous strides on our critical legislative goals over the last two years, but we need your help getting pending legislation through the final stages and onto the president’s desk for his signature before the clock runs out,” said Deputy National Legislative Director Shane Liermann. “We ask all of you to support this legislation so that veterans suffering from conditions related to burn pit exposures do not have to wait any longer for justice.”

This bill would concede exposure to burn pits to any veteran who served in the locations recognized by the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. It would also concede exposure to specific toxins that are currently accepted by the VA in their adjudication manual. If the evidence is not sufficient for the VA to grant the claim, the bill requires the VA to request a medical opinion to address the association of the veteran’s claimed disease to the known toxins.

This legislation would remove obstacles for veterans establishing claims based on burn pit exposure and ensure the VA conducts a medical exam and provides an opinion as to the association of the toxic exposures and the claimed disease. Concession of exposure—which is a part of all presumptive service-connected diseases, similar to Agent Orange exposure—will help countless veterans, now and in the future.

Originally introduced by Sens. Dan Sullivan and Joe Manchin in November 2019, S.2950 passed the Aug. 5 SVAC legislative markup with amendment. The amendment was favorable and includes additional burn pit locations: Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen. The amendment also added reporting requirements from the VA.

“DAV is well aware—and has been for many years—of the adverse health effects of burn pits,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese. “Veterans cannot afford to wait any longer while their conditions worsen. We must take action now to formally recognize exposure to burn pits.”

DAV expects the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to introduce a companion bill soon. n


Learn more

If you want to see the passage of this bill, take action now through DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at davcan.org.